Posted by: Kro | April 15, 2010

Kro Tzu’s the Art of Healing

Healing in the World of Warcraft is a simple concept. If green bar is not full, then fill it. If green bar is full, then wait.

You could present simple ‘if, then’ statements for the other two roles as well, but the binary nature of healing in WoW is much more dynamic than it seems.

If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.

Healing in WoW gets easier with gear. You have more mana regen, more throughput, more health to survive a stray mob, but knowing what your opponent is capable of and what you are capable of are the most meaningful ways to improve your healing.

Knowing yourself and your class abilities is your first step. You need to get a feel for how many and which heals you need to top off a dps that takes a stray bolt, a group taking damage from an aura, or a tank being railed by a boss two tiers ahead of them. Whatever class you are, you will have some version of a fast heal, an efficient heal, a big heal, a cooldown heal, an area of effect heal, and a heal over time. Some classes have more than one of each, or have one spell that fills two or more of these. Some classes you’d have to argue that they even have one, or two of these types of heal. (Paladin flash of light HoT on sacred shield or glyph of holy light – debatable).

Once you get comfortable with this you can start working out how to best manage your mana from fight to fight. Timing your mana with the encounter is something you constantly need to gauge in the background. Healing everyone is wonderful but if you expend all you have a minute before the boss dies you aren’t really helping at all. Shifting your healing down a gear or two either in a lull in combat or by noting on vent you need help on your assignment while you hymn or divine plea for a moment is something you want to do as early as possible. When you know your mana capabilities you can better manage when you tone down your healing to ensure you are able to go the distance.

Another ‘know thyself’ principle is to know not only yourself, but your raid group. Knowing other classes’ strengths and weaknesses can benefit you when making quick decisions while healing.

Let’s take the scenario of two of your fellow raiders afflicted with a powerful long-lasting damage over time ability that cannot be dispelled. If one of the afflicted is a blood death knight and the other an arcane mage you will make different play decisions than you would with other combinations. In this case, you know one of the blood dk’s main strikes is death strike which will heal him a considerable amount. He is likely comfortable with a hot and minimal attention. The mage, on the other hand, has less HP overall and will have trouble managing the dot on their own. They have some options with frost/fire wards and mana shield but these are situational. In this instance you would hot the dk and give principle attention to the mage. Now if both of these players are below 10% HP.. the story changes and you’ll want to use a medium cooldown instant heal on the DK because the mage can ice block. The more you know about the other classes and roles the better your chance of balancing your attention correctly across the raid.

The best ways to accomplish understanding of what all the classes can and should do to support their self is to…

  1. Play all the classes to max level and raid with them. This is obviously not the easiest task and not necessarily suggested unless you never have to work or are superhuman and do not require food or shelter.
  2. Read up on all the classes. This requires significantly less time, however without hands on practice (for me at least) I don’t get all the class abilities into that split second understanding mode.
  3. Play the game for 5 years. Playing from release has its advantages, one of them is the benefit of class knowledge osmosis.
  4. PVP a lot. (I can almost hear the groans from some of my guildies from here.) Arena and Battlegrounds are likely the best way to get hands on experience as to what other classes are capable of in a short amount of time (in terms of personal survival when healing them). I know some folks hate PVP and I can see why they would, but healing in BG/Arena or even dpsing in them will teach you a lot about healing in raids, reaction times, and what you ought to expect out of the people you are healing.

 It’s also helpful to know the strength and weaknesses of the player. If you know one of your raiders is prone to poor situational awareness you may throw them a big heal when a void zone spawns under them. I know this isn’t likely because poor players don’t exist but IF they did, you may be able to guess who will be the person that takes an extra tick (or more) of aoe before they move to a safer position.

The second principle is to know your enemy. Knowing what ability is coming next from each boss, how much it hits for, what kind of debuff is involved, and how often it will be used are all ways to improve your healing. If you can anticipate a large attack on a tank, instead of spamming your max rank healing spell, wasting mana and perhaps landing a heal early, you can line up your heals to land the instant damage is taken. You can anticipate how much healing to do against damage that ramps up over time or damage that starts out full throttle and wanes.

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.

Adhering to these principles is the groundwork for being a great healer. Once you have the know-how for healing you get to the fun part, the part of healing that becomes variable and sets it apart from threating, or pushing a damage rotation to the limit.

Healing requires you to make choices. I personally categorize these into four styles; gut, triage, assigned, and cheat healing.

Gut healing involves using your instincts (in conjunction with your know-how). Many times you’ll find yourself in a situation where there are multiple players in imminent threat of dying and you’ll need to use your gut to choose who is going to get your attention. In less than a gcd you need to take into account, what ability could come next, who has a cooldown they can use to save themselves, who has poor situational awareness, will you need your own cooldown later on, will you have enough mana later on to sustain what you are about to cast, and who you are willing to let die to save someone else that may better serve completing that specific encounter. Sometimes you can’t compute all of this in one gcd while avoiding mechanics coming at your own character and gut healing, based in the fundamental groundwork you’ve laid, will take over.

Triage healing is another form of healing I use in multiple damaged target situations, particularly where large damage strikes random players in quick succession. Beaconing a tank and machine gunning off one second gcd flash of lights, washing a raid in rejuvs, pw: shields, renews, chain heals, while weaving in your fast inefficient heal and your short (6ish second) cooldown heal are the bread and butter of triage healing. This is usually the most exciting to heal (or most taxing if it’s a long wipe night on this fight).

Technically you could say triage healing and gut healing are the same thing only as far as I’ve described, gut healing is triage healing without thinking. Well as true as this is, I use both phrases so tough cookies!

Assigned healing is your basic healing role. You are told heal the tank, you heal the tank. You are told heal group 5, you heal group 5. Assigned melee, heal the melee and so on. If you let your assignment die be sure to go your healing officer or raid leader and explain why it happened. It will go a long way if you say “Sorry I was gcd locked and trying to reapply my beacon and lost xxwarlockxx” rather than sit in silence. You could even be honest and say “sorry I really had to scratch my baseballs and took my hand of the mouse for a second” and you’ll be in better shape than silence. Believe me when I say, if your raid leader and officers are any good they know what happened already from world of logs or mods. Failure to fess up will hurt you even if they don’t say anything to you. There will be a little mental check mark next to your name each following time you mess up. Always follow your healing assignment.

Cheat healing involves the ability to disregard your healing assignment. Once you become a great healer, fully aware of your capabilities in the current instance, your raid group, your class and your healing toolbox, you ought to be able to keep with your assignments while cheat/cross healing. Obviously this is dangerous and you need to be sure of yourself to pull it off. When you do cheat your assignments you have to leave them safe. Sometimes it’s a drop off in combat activity, or your tank seems stable and can live without a few of your gcds, or a new boss is about to die and you can afford to lose a couple of dps to keep the tank from biting the canvas. Cheating your assignment comes from being so comfortable that you can afford to help your fellow healers.

When you have one person who can get away with his assignment and help the other healers you give all the healers more breathing room. With two cheat healers you get into the position where you can drop a healer and bring a dps. When all of your healers can cheat you no longer need assignments. Even on new encounters, Blood Red Moon goes into the fight knowing who they technically should be healing based on their class and what they read about the new boss and they do their job while helping others. A raid full of cheat healers has a lot of room for errors and pulling out victories from the jaws of defeat.

The type of healer you are can come from the class you play, the experience you have, the other healers you play with, or any number of things.

The Dark Healer Gift is different for all of us.”

Good luck to those of you just starting your healing journey, and to those already deep on the path..  /salute

-Edit- As I browse the blogs I usually read I found a post with a very similar topic over at the Murloc Parliament   It takes the raid leaders point of view and involves knowing your healers strengths to effectively give healing assignments. It gets into specific class strengths and has a nice mock up for each healing class where as I was very general and from the healer POV. (I promise I didn’t steal your idea and spin it Zel, lol I’ve been working on this post for 3 days)



  1. […] buddy Kro, has a great post spinning off Sun-Tzu’s Art of War to create Kro-Tzu’s Art of Healing. […]

  2. […] I heal, I aim for Zen, all because Known as Kro released Kro Tzu’s the Art of Healing. Know thyself. And stick to your healing […]

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